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An introduction to university rankings

Analyzing and choosing a university by rankings can be confusing and sometimes misleading (don’t worry, I was lost, too.) There’s a plethora of different rankings for a range of universities. This includes courses and even the educational systems per country. Due to this influx of data, we at Cybernews Academy have created a series to explain university rankings and how they work. We welcome you to our introduction article, that will help you understand how to identify different rankings and what rankings to look out for.

Why are university rankings important?

So, what’s important about university rankings, and which universities should you pay attention to? Well, this answer heavily depends on your course and your chosen profession. You may be looking for a STEM-oriented (science, technology, engineering, maths) course full of cerebral challenges– an approach focused on research. Or, you could be looking for something completely different– a practical, hands-on approach to learning which allows you to apply your knowledge to everyday situations.

This sounds great. I’m ready to get stuck in. Show me the highest-ranked university, and I’ll go there. Hold on! Wait a minute. Before you dive headfirst into your future, you must first understand what university rankings are.

What are university rankings?

University rankings are league tables presenting top universities and courses across the nation and the globe. University rankings are evidence that your prospective university is doing its job correctly. These rankings focus on criteria that can differ depending on the institution you look at (for example, QS rankings will naturally vary from The Times Higher Education Rankings.) Independent commercial outlets, academics, magazines, and newspapers often conduct university rankings. For example, The Times and The Guardian are both newspapers that rank different universities.

It’s OK if you’re still confused– we have outlined some standard criteria, otherwise known as indicators, that can help you understand what these institutions look for when assessing universities.

Here are some of the general criteria used to measure university rankings:

  • Academic Reputation
  • Citation per Faculty
  • International Research Network
  • Faculty-to-Student Ratio
  • Employer Reputation
  • International Outlook

Why are rankings important?

University rankings measure data from different universities that help you compare various institutions to find the right fit for you. University Rankings show how well these institutions operate– to ensure they provide the best possible service.

We’ve outlined some notable aspects of university rankings that might help you contextualize their importance.

Get your priorities straight

Now, let's talk a bit about you. You're bound to have particular interests that you want to transfer into higher education. You've got strong opinions and think you know exactly what you want out of university. Or maybe you're struggling to think about what you want to gain from your university experience– that's OK, too. Don't worry. We've got you covered. We've created a priority list to help you navigate university rankings.

Consider what’s crucial.

What’s important to you? This could be placements, research opportunities, networking with lecturers, international faculty, or student-to-staff ratio. This could also be as significant as how practical or theoretical the course is or what careers you may be offered once you graduate. If there are multiple features you are looking for, try to prioritize them by order of importance.

Pick the pathway that suits you.

What approach fits your learning style best? Look at your strongest assets and think about what you would find most enjoyable. Consider what skills you want to gain and how you want to go about your learning process. You may enjoy science and research and want to specialize in that field. Or, prefer a more hands-on approach to learning where you can apply your knowledge to everyday situations. There is no right or wrong option, just one that matches your computer science career.

Look into which rankings measure these key aspects

Indicator weightings are percentages or points that measure how significant specific metrics are within that university. So, you need to look at university rankings that showcase indicators that are important to you. The student-to-faculty ratio is the most important factor in your academic journey, or the university's reputation may be the most essential factor. So, take your time and analyze these critical components carefully.

Look for universities that are offering what you’re looking for

Look at other important features it offers the customer– remember, you are the customer. Assess whether this university course is right for you by looking at all the aspects of student life. For example, you may want to look into accommodation, academic, and extra-curricular opportunities.

Don’t choose your study based exclusively on rankings

Look and measure multiple features the university offers. Make sure you do your research. Just because the university you want to enroll in is ranked number one doesn’t mean the specific course you want to take will be ranked the same.

Be realistic

The higher the academic requirements are, the more likely the course will be orientated to the students who prefer science/research over knowledge application. Universities may also ask for specific grade requirements, a glowing CV, a motivational letter, a letter of recommendation, or even previous practical experience. These factors will then indicate a practical focus that will prepare you to apply your knowledge in the workplace.

Why are rankings relevant to computer science and information technology degrees?

Whether it’s research or their diverse range of faculty and students, rankings highlight what universities are best at. This means rankings are important across the board, even if you’re looking for a specific subject. Many rankings providers offer subject-specific rankings that are centered around your subject area. If you look specifically at Computer Science and Information Technologies, you will see that universities are ranked differently from the overall global or regional rankings. This ranking system also assesses certain criteria but is based explicitly on the subject. This is important as certain universities will be better for different degrees. In our next article, we will be looking deeper into rankings criteria and what these rankings show about universities.

So, you’ve finished part one of our four-part series on university rankings. We hope that this helped you make sense of the subject by outlining what university rankings are, why they are important, and help you explore the necessary factors needed to find your dream university.